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The Statesman

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    Stony Brook Hockey Looking to Move Up

    216 wins, 48 losses. That’s the record of the Stony Brook club hockey team since the 1999-2000 season. But the team, which has become a national power at the club level, is not officially a part of the athletic department.

    The club has been around since 1968, but began its meteoric rise in 1999 under the watch of General Manager Christopher Garofalo. The team currently receives $80,000 in funding from the Undergraduate Student Government.

    Garofalo said that falls about $30,000 short of what the team needs, and the rest of the money is contributed by the players and various fund raisers. Garofalo graduated from Stony Brook in 1996 after playing four years on the hockey team. “Our ultimate goal is to get an ice rink built on campus and one day have our team become an NCAA program,” he said.

    The team has spent the last eight years as members of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. The ACHA is the governing body for all club ice hockey teams in the country. There are three men’s divisions within the association, and one women’s division. Stony Brook hockey has competed in Division II since 2000. For the 2007-08 season, the team has moved up to Division I, which features 54 teams.

    The ACHA requires that all players be fulltime undergraduate students taking a minimum of 24 credits a year and maintaining a minimum GPA of 2.0. The NCAA rulebook is used for all game matters.

    In March, at the end of each season there is a national tournament for each division. Only the top 16 teams are invited. Stony Brook has been ranked in the top 16 of Division II for each of the last eight years and advanced as far as the finals in 2003 before falling to Colorado.

    Stony Brook is also a part of the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association, a sub-conference in the ACHA. The other members include Lehigh University, the University of Maryland, Towson University, Villanova University and West Chester University. The winner of the ECHA gets an automatic bid into the national tournament.

    But building the rink is the first priority for Garofalo. The team currently plays at The Rinx in Hauppauge, a facility that has two full size-ice rinks and is open to the public. After the recent shutdown of Sportsplus in Lake Grove, which housed many recreational hockey leagues, The Rinx installed a third temporary rink to accommodate those with no where to continue playing. But Tom Palamara, the executive vice president of The Rinx, says the temporary structure is coming down March 1, and there are no plans to build anything permanent.

    Palamara also said that officials from The Rinx met with President Shirley Strum Kenny in March of this year about the prospects of putting a rink on campus. He said The Rinx staff would operate and maintain the building and rinks, but the university was not interested.

    Garofalo said his team pays the normal fee of $410 per hour to practice at the Rinx. Because of this price, the team is only able to practice twice a week. This does not sit well with everyone on the team.

    “Playing at The Rinx is awful,” said junior forward Angelo Serse. “It’s way too far from the school, and we don’t get a lot of time during the week to practice. At the games we just get our parents? we don’t get anyone from school.”

    Senior goaltender Drue Santora expressed similar sentiments. “The Rinx is a nice facility, but its location hinders the team,” Santora said. “Without our own ice, it’s hard to have practices at decent times and we’re forced to practice until 11:30 PM. Since it’s not our own ice it’s also very expensive, and to minimize expenses we have to limit our practice time. Also, due to its location it’s difficult to get a large audience,” he said.

    Garofalo has been trying to get the attention of the Athletic Department so he can present his plan to them, but so far has been unable to get in touch.

    When contacted, Jim Fiore, the athletic director, said he was unaware of any previous conversations with members of the club hockey team, or The Rinx. “I don’t recall a conversation in the last two years, at least,” he said. “While we’re not against it, it would be a huge financial undertaking.”

    Dr. Richard Laskowski, a business professor at the university, offered his opinion on the situation. According to the university website, Dr. Laskowski spent 19 years at St. John’s University, serving as the Associate Director of Athletics of Varsity Sports in his final eight years, and was also the Director of Intramurals, Club Sports and Recreation for five years.

    Beyond the money issue, the university would have to worry about following the law, he said. Title IX states that women must be equally represented in the athletic field. While the split can be representative of the entire student body, that is to say if men make up 60% of the total student body, they can make up 60% of the athletes, Laskowski says that right off the bat adding two new teams instead of just one would double costs across the board for the athletic department. On top of the 60 or so extra athletes, the university would have to hire trainers, supports staff and other administrators for the teams.

    Then get to the actual facility. Laskowski estimated it would cost $30 million to $50 million to build an arena. “If you rent that ice out around the clock, it might take 100 years to recoup that money,” he said.

    Add in the political storm it would create with all that money being dedicated to a sports facility while the academic community would want the money for their own academic interests. “This is a good team,” Laskowski said. “It’s a good idea, but the funding is impossible.”

    Garofalo vehemently refuted Laskowski’s assertion that a rink would be that expensive. He pointed to the LaHaye Ice Center, a rink built on the campus of Liberty University, another Division I club hockey team. The rink holds up to 3,000 spectators for Liberty hockey games, and according to Head Coach Kirk Handy cost only four million dollars to build. He also said it will “break even on the operational side.” Garofolo thinks the four million dollars is attainable. “If the funding is there, will they build it?” he said.

    While Garofolo is looking ahead to the remainder of the season, he hopes sometime in the future the club can improve its status.

    “I wish the university would really take a good look at what we have done with limited resources and be able to see if they were to move us to the next level, we would be a great addition to the athletic department and bring a winning tradition to the school,” he said. “But that’s up to them.”

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